Football

De Rossi spares Italy's blushes

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Defending champions Italy had to come from behind to salvage a 1-1 draw in their World Cup Group F opener against Paraguay in Cape Town.

Having played well in the first half at Green Point Stadium, the 2006 winners were shocked when Wigan-bound defender Antolin Alcaraz rose to head home a 39th-minute free-kick.

Italy's blushes were spared to some extent, however, as Daniele De Rossi slid in to punish a mistake by Paraguay goalkeeper Justo Villar after 63 minutes and take a point from the match.

Claudio Morel had to be alert to stop Simone Pepe pouncing on a dangerous ball at the back post in the sixth minute as Italy set the early pace. Their passing and movement was delightful, with Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio central to much of it.

However, Italy were stunned six minutes before the break when Paraguay went in front from a set-piece.

Aureliano Torres' launched free-kick from deep was perfectly flighted and with Fabio Cannavaro and De Rossi flailing, Alcaraz headed past Buffon.

Gianluigi Buffon was surprisingly substituted at the break, replaced by Cagliari goalkeeper Federico Marchetti having reportedly suffered a back injury.

Victor Caceres was booked for a late slide on Riccardo Montolivo before Italy finally made the pressure tell to go level. Villar horribly missed Pepe's corner from the left, allowing a delighted De Rossi to simply stab the ball home and wheel away in delight.

Italy had a penalty shout denied by Mexican Benito Archundia when Montolivo went down under a robust shoulder challenge from Paulo Da Silva before, at the other end, Lucas Barrios found Jonathan Santana who dragged his shot off target.

Montolivo did threaten with an 83rd-minute long-range effort which brought out the best in Villar, who sprawled low to his right to save, but Italy were unable to complete the turnaround by snatching a winner.

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Paulo Da Silva
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Premier League
Wigan Athletic

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